EXCLUSIVE: Buhari to shell out N60Billion to one million artisans, market women

More details are emerging about the social protection
programmes of the Muhammadu Buhari presidency, including a
scheme to grant soft loans to about one million artisans and
market women in the proposed 2016 budget.
A senior federal government official who described the current
controversy in the Senate regarding two versions of the proposed
budget as a “distraction and a storm in a tea-cup,” confirmed that
a provision to grant a one -time soft loan of about N60,000 each
to one million market women, men and artisans is in the budget.
According to the official, who asked not to be named because of
the sensitive nature of the matter, said the budget sent out by the
presidency is a bunch of proposals which would only become
sacrosanct relatively after it had become an appropriation.
“To now have all this hue and cry on alleged versions, and
switched copies is not just a distraction, but a storm in a tea-cup.”
The official said there were far too important components in the
budget proposals, including the soft loan which is the Micro-Credit
component of the Buhari Social Protection programmes.
This component, according to the official, will gulp about N60
Billion and is one of a six-point social protection programme of the
administration.
While details of the implementation of the N60billion Micro-Credit
scheme are being worked out and would be rolled out once the
budget is approved by the National Assembly, there are five other
social protection schemes identified to be coordinated by a Special
Adviser for Social Protection Plan in the presidency, with an
effective inter ministerial involvement.
The official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the Special
Adviser has also ready been named and is now working in the
Office of the Vice President. She is Maryam Uwais.
Mrs. Uwais, is a respected lawyer with over 30 years experience,
including serving as a Principal Partner of Wali Uwais & Co, an
Abuja-based law firm.
Besides the Micro-Credit scheme, there are five other social
investment plans of the Buhari administration already provided for
in the budget with about N500billion, or an unprecedented nine
percent of the total budget.
Presidency insiders say this is the first time the Nigerian
government is spending this much on targeted social welfare
scheme.
The other five schemes are:
The Teach Nigeria Scheme: Where the federal government
plans to directly hire 500,000 graduates as teachers. Under the
scheme government will hire, train and deploy the graduates to
help raise the quality of teachers in public schools across the
nation.
Sources say the selection of the 500,000 teachers is likely to be on
states and FCT basis.
The Youth Employment Agency: Where between 300,000 to
500,000 non graduate youths would be taken through skill
acquisition programmes and vocational training for which they
would be paid stipends during the training. Government expects
that they would then become self-sustaining members of their
communities. The selection of the youths for this scheme would
also be per states and FCT.
Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT): Where government would
pay directly N5000 per month to one million extremely poor
Nigerians this year on the condition that they have children
enrolled in school and are immunized.
It would be recalled that the Vice President had explained that such
cash transfers would enable those extremely poor Nigerians “to
live decently.”
According to the presidency official this is the most
misunderstood of the schemes and he clarified that it would only
be for extremely poor people based on a set of criteria that is
being determined, including the use of social registers which the
president announced during the budget speech as being currently
compiled. The office of the Special Adviser is said to be already
working on the registers.
The World Bank is working with the federal government on some
of this programmes including the CCT.
Homegrown School Feeding: Where the federal government
would serve one meal a day to students of primary schools.
Those familiar with the scheme said it would be implemented in
collaboration with state governments.
Sources said a pilot scheme for this would start with a number of
states drawn from across the country, and then developed to
cover the entire country.
In the 2016 proposed budget, provision has been made to
implement this on a pilot scheme basis.
This programme is also said to have international support from
the global community including the Imperial College of the UK.
Free Education Scheme For Science, Technology,
Engineering and Maths (STEM): Where tuition payment would
be paid for about 100,000 STEM students in tertiary institutions in
the country. The government is also proposing, in the 2016
budget, to spend about N5billion on this particular scheme.

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